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LaGrange bows out in region tourney

CARTERSVILLE – The future is bright.

The season came to a close for the LaGrange High softball team on Monday with a 7-1 loss to Cartersville in the third and deciding game of their Region 5-AAAA playoff series.

LaGrange forced a decisive Game 3 by rallying for a 5-4 victory in Game 2 on Saturday when it scored three runs in the seventh and final inning.

Cartersville won the first game of the series 2-1.

While she’s disappointed to see this season come to a close, LaGrange head coach Gabby Heath feels good about where the program stands.

Most of the players from this team will return, and a talented group of eighth-graders are prepared to join the program next fall.

“We have a lot of young kids, who have a lot of experience,” Heath said. “Just bringing that experience with them is going to add so much to the table.”

Heath said many of the players on the current team were new to the sport, but that they committed to it 100 percent and made tremendous strides as the season went along.

“The most interesting part of this group is, they’re a coachable group,” Heath said. “A lot of them came in not knowing a whole lot, but they were willing to listen, and make adjustments, and that’s why we were able to do what we did on Saturday.”

Heath is having to say good-bye to three seniors, including shortstop Lauren Kuerzi, third baseman Te’a Winston, and pitcher McLain Skinner.

Skinner, unfortunately, suffered a knee injury early in the season and was unable to play.

Kuerzi was LaGrange’s top power hitter and was an anchor of the defense from her shortstop position, and Winston did a stellar job from the leadoff position.

“Lauren’s been a four-year starter for us, and McLain has pitched for us all four years, but she’s gone through some tough injuries,” Heath said. “They’ve all contributed to the program in amazing ways.”

One of Kuerzi’s most significant contributions came in Saturday’s second game.

As LaGrange came to bat in the bottom of the seventh inning, it was facing elimination.

If the Lady Grangers didn’t score at least two runs, their season would be over.

With runners on first and second, Kuerzi stepped to the plate, and she delivered a game-tying double, and she scored the winning run on Hannah Karcher’s hit.

“I was up to bat with first and second, and a full count,” Kuerzi said. “I will always remember that. That was my highlight of the season.”

As a veteran on a team with a number of newcomers, Kuerzi was sort of like a coach on the field, and that’s a role she embraced.

“I’ve been playing for countless years, and having new players was fun,” she said. “You got to teach them. I enjoyed it.”

Kuerzi had two more hits in Monday’s game, but the day belonged to Cartersville.

Cartersville surged to a 5-0 lead before LaGrange scratched a run across in the fifth inning on an RBI single by Kuerzi.

Cartersville’s Colbi Ballard then hit a two-run home run in the bottom of the sixth to cap the scoring.

Trailing 5-0, LaGrange had a great chance to break through in the fourth inning.

Shamiracle Mahone, Destiny Fitzpatrick and Shaq Sutton had consecutive singles to load the bases with one out, but LaGrange was unable to score.

The Lady Grangers broke through for their only run in the fifth inning.

With one out, Winston singled and stole second, and she scored on Kuerzi’s base hit.

The Lady Grangers threatened again in the sixth inning.

Sutton walked, Katelynn Mobley reached on an error, and they both moved up a base on a groundout by Kadaysha Griffin.

The inning ended with a strikeout, though.

Kuerzi had a two-out single in the seventh inning, but she was left stranded.

Reach Kevin Eckleberry at (706) 884-7311 or on Twitter @lagrangesports

LaGrange’s Hannah Karcher delivers a pitch during Monday’s region-tournament game against Cartersville. Kevin Eckleberry | Daily News
http://lagrangenews.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/web1_LHS1-2.jpgLaGrange’s Hannah Karcher delivers a pitch during Monday’s region-tournament game against Cartersville. Kevin Eckleberry | Daily News
LaGrange senior shortstop Lauren Kuerzi makes a throw to first for an out during Monday’s game. Kevin Eckleberry | Daily News
http://lagrangenews.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/web1_LHS2-2.jpgLaGrange senior shortstop Lauren Kuerzi makes a throw to first for an out during Monday’s game. Kevin Eckleberry | Daily News
LaGrange senior Te’a Winston scores her team’s only run during Monday’s game. Kevin Eckleberry | Daily News
http://lagrangenews.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/web1_LHS3-2.jpgLaGrange senior Te’a Winston scores her team’s only run during Monday’s game. Kevin Eckleberry | Daily News
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Lady Grangers drop decisive Game 3 of playoff series

By Kevin Eckleberry

keckleberry@civitasmedia.com